My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not what I expected ...

I speak several languages and I love learning new ones, so I took this test which language I should learn next. I didn't really expect the outcome, though! Japanese wasn't very high on my priority list, mainly because it's really a challenge.
And additionally, I doubt that I can be considered cutting edge ... although travelling to Japan would be a definite option!

You Should Learn Japanese

You're cutting edge, and you are ready to delve into wacky Japanese culture.
From Engrish to eating contests, you're born to be a crazy gaijin. Saiko!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Looking forward to homemaking

Molly and Jenna at Choosing Home have another article drive. The topic this time is "Home-Making". This is my contribution to the drive.

Maybe my perspective is slightly different than the one of most of you. There’s a very simple reason for that: I’m not married yet and don’t have any children either.
I live in a single apartment and work as a junior researcher at university. So therefore there is not very much homemaking right now, but there are what you could call beginnings.
My beloved spends quite some time at my apartment and I at his. So we are trying to make our own places home for both of us. (He got lots of good taste for decorating!)
What does this include in practice for me? It means that I try to not let my place get to cluttered cause that’s not very comfy or inviting. (And believe me, that’s a fight sometimes...) It means that there is always space for him. That there is always some snacks, drinks etc. at my place that he likes. And, of course, it includes cooking and baking. I love to cook, so generally I really enjoy preparing meals for us – from the ordinary to the fancy. It’s a pleasure for me and it’s a joy to see how he likes my food. Both of us love good food (good, not necessarily expensive). He cooks for me too sometimes and he’s a really good cook too.

Quite often now, I have come across the criticism that “higher education” and work will keep a woman from her calling to be a homemaker. Well, this is true for some, but it is not true for all. It is not the trend of our culture to admit the desire to be a homemaker (just shocked some students a few days ago when I told them ;)). But I know quite some ladies who studied at university or worked for quite some years and still have always desired to be homemakers and to have a family. They do by now.
I am looking forward to be a homemaker. Already now. Looking forward to make a place into a “home” for my beloved and any family there might come. And so I pursue homemaking interests at the same time while being a part of the working group. Just learned how to sew a skirt, for example. Widen my knowledge of recipes (have I mentioned that I love food?). Learning from all of your blogs and learning from my friends who already are homemakers.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I could not resist

As some of you know or read here a while ago, I have now officially published a book. :)
Since March "Völkerrechtsprechung" (that's the German title) in on sale in bookstores. In English the title would be something like "Compendium of International Law Jurisprudence".
It is a 900-pages volume and contains about 158 articles. Two collegues/friends and I are the editors and we also contributed quite some of the articles inside. Most of them deal with international and national court judgments that are connected with/apply international law. The others introduce certain areas of international law and specific courts (German Constitutional Court, International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, etc.).
I finally found a picture of the cover on the net and could not resist sharing it with you :). So here it is:

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Youth groups in the spotlight – part 2

This is my second post in my series about youth groups, the first one giving my background is here. This post shall deal more with some things I do not like very much about youth groups. But please keep in mind that I’m a volunteer youth worker, so I’m not generally against youth groups. And this post is not about the youth groups at my church! (And I don't have much time, so it won't be a long post. Sorry!)

1. the cosy let’s-have-pizza-and-fun youth group
First, I think it is ok to have fun and pizza at youth group. BUT I don’t think that that should be all we have at a youth group. It is important to have a time where we can build relationships and friendships, gain each other’s trust and just have lots of fun and laughter. But a youth group should be there to strengthen the youths’ walk with Christ or to lead them towards him. If teaching is missing at youth group, there is a vital element missing.

2. the front-style teaching only
So No. 2 is about teaching methods. I often do not appreciate a teaching-from-the-front-only approach. This means that all the youth do is sit there and the youth worker speaks to them from his place. And that’s it. There is hardly any involvement of the youths. No discussion etc. Sometimes this is great. (Like in Bacharrach, Jason!) But I often have the impression that the youth worker’s speech (which he put lots of work into and which is really important) just passes by the youths. Maybe they listen, but it doesn’t get into them.
Maybe I especially dislike it cause I’m used to different methods. So it might just be me. It is important to have teaching, but at least as important that the teaching really reaches the youths. (More about that in my next post.)

3. Mixed groups
Now, what do I mean with that? I don’t really mind a mixed boy/girl group. (But you have to split up for some topics then for real discussion’s sake). But a group where you have youth who are Christians and youth who are not is a difficult thing. It’s difficult to avoid too, though. If you have both those groups, it gets difficult to have teaching that fits both groups, cause their needs are so different. Either group gets in danger of being neglected. (Could maybe be solved by splitting up for teaching)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Back soon ...

I'm leaving this afternoon to Mannheim where my grandma lives. She's just out of hospital after about four weeks and my mum's staying there to help her settle back into her place. And it's my mum's birthday today... And I'm off to visit them. It will be fun (Greek food tonight, yummy).
Then on Monday I'm leaving on a worktrip for three days, listening to students' papers about the concept of human dignity in our constitution, abortion and our constitution, assisted deaths and our constitution etc. Might turn out quite interesting.
So the result will be: hardly any blogging until next Thursday. Then I'll continue with my series about youth groups, share about my trip to Brussels last weekend etc. and comment on your blogs again :)

By the way, my haloscan comments are acting weird. There are actually more comments to the posts than the number behind "comments" indicates. At least when I check my blog the numbers and comments don't fit. So check the comments out to be sure you didn't miss any.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Youth groups in the spotlight – part 1

I’ve come across posts about youth groups on quite a number of blogs over the last months. Some positive, some critical. After reading two more critical posts at Anne’s café and spunky homeschool, I decided to finally share my own thoughts about youth groups. I decided to split it up into a series, to share my positive and my negative opinions and to make it a better read.
As experiences influence our opinions I’ll tell a little bit about my background and my own experiences with youth groups first.

My first “Christian” memories are of my mom reading me stories from the children’s bible and teaching me little prayers to say at bedtime. We also went to church on Christmas every year, maybe Easter. But faith did not play a more active part in our family life than that. At least I cannot remember it.
When we lived in Norway (1980-1983) I attended two Norwegian kindergartens that were both affiliated with churches. And I went to a children’s Sunday school (on Saturdays) that was held by the Salvation Army. I remember that we sang and learned a lot about Jesus there and I still treasure the little pictures of the good shepherd that I received there :). After a while my parents took me out cause I got “too enthusiastic” and “too fundamental” about Jesus and faith in him.
After we moved back to Germany I attended a children’s and later a girl’s group at our church. After two years of classes and mandatory church attendance I was confirmed. It was important to me, I knew a lot about God and believed in him, but didn’t know that much about Jesus. Sounds paradoxical, doesn’t it?
I went up to the front at ProChrist the year I turned 17 when Billy Graham spoke, but actually found Jesus several weeks later – on a Christian teen camp from my church. The group of leaders consisted of our pastor and several youth about one to a few years older than me. They also held the bible studies in small groups, each leading his own small group. The faith those teenagers had amazed me, I knew they had something (a relationship with Jesus) that I didn’t have – but I also knew that I really wanted it. So on that camp I gave my life to Jesus.
Since then, for more than 10 years now, I have been involved in youth ministry. I’ve been a leader at confirmation class camps and at several summer camps to Norway and Italy. I’ve also done kid’s camps. At my international church now I’m a volunteer at our youth group for the high school kids and also at a youth conference and our annual snow retreat.
Maybe my own involvement makes this topic – the advantages and disadvantages of youth group – so attractive or better: important for me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Painting a picture - part 2

This is my (second) post responding to a challenge by Adrian Warnock. To find out more and read the bible verses that are important to understand this post, have a look at Painting the picture - part 1 first.

God created us as humans with a wide variety of emotions, character traits and abilities. But he does not approve of every emotion or character trait we display. In turn, there are several vitues/traits that God highly appreciates. That he wants us to show. Two stuck out to me after reading all these verses: humility and obedience (see e.g. Isaiah 66, 2 and Phil. 2).
God wants us to be humble. What does that mean? It means among other things to know that we are and can do nothing without God. It means to know our place as created beings in relation to our creator. And humility also effects our life in relation to others. We are to put others first and keep their interests in mind. We are not be selfish and self-absorbed. We are to be each other's servants. (See Phil. 2, 3-4 and Matthew 23, 11). And there is a reward for true humility. Jesus promised that the one who humbles himself will be exalted and God promised to look on the humble one.
Obedience means to follow God's word and keep his commands. Even if they seem hard to us. Even if we don't understand them. We can be assured that God, our creator and loving father knows best. He is Lord of our lives, he claims our obedience. God desires humility and obedience in the life of his disciples. The one who perfected this is Jesus. The son of God humbled himself and became a man and finally died on a cross. He stayed obedient to his father's will, even when it meant a shameful death on a cross. His mind of humility and obedience is ours in Jesus Christ (Phil. 2 5). So our lives should consist of humility towards God and others and obedience to God's word. Humility and obedience work together. We are to humbly accept the order of creation and areas of our lives that God set up in the knowledge that he is sovereign and that he knows best. Then we are to obediently live according to it. And humble love and respect should reign in our relations with each other. We are to mirror Christ's humility and obedience.
This includes accepting the orders God established concerning our family, church and work lives.

First, according to the verses of 1 Corinthians and Colossians, God established an order of authority in the family. God has the highest authority, he is even the head of Christ. Christ is the head of the man and man in turn is the head of his wife. This sounds very authoritarian, but is filled or softened by the picture of Colossians 3, 18-20. The wife is to submit to - to respect - her husband, the husband is to love his wife and not to be harsh with her. Here we find loving humility. The wife is to respect the God-given authority of her husband - but is by no means a mindless, unimportant, ... slave or doormat. She is obedient to God if she accepts his idea of authority. The man is to love his wife. This includes taking her opinions into account, serving her, loving her, treating her in a loving manner. The relations in a family should be goverened by mutual love and humbly putting others first. It is by no means the authoritarian hard unloving family as many people paint it after reading these verses.

Second, there are implications for our work life. God requires us to be obedient to our bosses because of him. He requires good work - again for his sake. We are working for Jesus Christ, not for men. This should lead to our best efforts. (I really need to work on that attitude!)

Third, there is an order established for church life. In 1 Timothy it is written that women should not teach or exercise authority over men, for this would go against creation order. This, however, does not exclude women from all teaching activities and possibilities. Women should definately teach women (Titus 2, 3-4) and they are most likely not confined to teaching about marriage and family life. Women also teach their children about God and his word and have a huge influence on the development of their children's faith (2. Tim. 1, 5). As well, they can teach together with men. Acts 18, 20 shows that Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos. So, there is no absolute prohibition of women teaching, as long as they do not assume an authority that God did not give them.

Although all these verses show that God established certain orders with specific roles and tasks for men and women, it is extremely important to remember, that both man and woman are created in God's image. Both are equal in that respect. God loves both the same and saves both the same. Nevertheless, he ordained different tasks for them. Woman is a helper fit for man. This is not some horrible or demeaning task, but a calling God placed on woman, a special role. I have the impression that this is mirrored in the orders God set up for family and church. There is also a special connection between man and woman (see. Gen. 2, 21, 23). I cannot really place the verses about the fall in the chain, except that God also punished man and woman each for their own sin, not for the ones of the other.

The overall picture to me is one of ordained orders that God wants us to obey and of different tasks for man and woman, at least in some (important) areas. And it is also - if it is obeyed - a picture of loving family relations, as each in humble love puts the other first.

Painting a picture - part 1

Last week Adrian Warnock offered quite a challenging task: to explore a certain chain of bible verses and to give words to the picture these verses paint regarding the question of what the bible has to say about authority and submission and how that in turn impacts family, church and work life. To find out if the verses really belong together and what they mean for our lives today.
Now, I’m well aware that this is “dangerous ground” as there are so many very different opinions on these questions out there and debates can get very heavy (and unfriendly). But anyway, I’ll take it up and will try to paint the picture as these verses reveal it to me (even though I think that I do not understand all of it). If you agree or disagree with that picture, please leave a comment, but - as well - please stay civil. This first part will only list the bible verses in the order Adrian Warnock put them.

All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66, 2)

Do nothing from rivalry and conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. (Philippians 2, 3-10)

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23, 11-12)

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11, 3)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord, and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3, 18-24)

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Timothy 2, 11-14)

Older women likewise are to be reverend in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, ... (Titus 2, 3-4)

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunike and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1, 5)

He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18, 26)

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1, 27)

Then the LORD God said, "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis 2, 18)

The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adan there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. (Genesis 2, 20-21)

Then the man said: "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of ma flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. " (Genesis 2, 23)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the womanm "Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?" (Genesis 3, 1)

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him "Where are you?" (Genesis 3, 9)

To the woman he said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." (Genesis 3, 16)

And to Adam he said: "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life." (Genesis 3, 17)